This past weekend, collegiate cycling returned from its two-week hiatus with a series of three races in Wilkesboro, North Carolina (hosted by Appalachian State). Duke took a full complement of riders - sans the leader of our women's team who broke her collarbone and thumb at a training event the weekend prior.
The descent was windy, and Jacob and I - and a number of others - encountered issues with 60mm deep rims in a gusty crosswind, forcing us to close down gaps in the group once the road flattened out for just a bit.
The second time up the climb, Virginia Tech brought all seven of their riders to the front and absolutely smashed the pace. The move came at a high cost to them, as they were left with only two riders in the main group when the peloton came to the climb again - but it also shelled a lot of other riders, including Jacob and I. I was close to the group over the second climb, but the steeper slopes of the third and final kick dislodged me (and two other chasing riders) permanently. Alex and Matt, however, remained in the lead group of eight riders.
Meanwhile, in the lead group, Matt Bruner (NC State) attacked solo and gained a 2-3 minute advantage on a chasing group of eight that still included Alex and Matt. Jacob and I, facing a long day alone, dropped out midway through lap 5. Matt Bruner's attack stuck (barely) and he stayed away for the win. For Duke, Matt finished 3rd, Alex 5th, and Eoin caught a number of dropped riders in the next two laps to finish 12th.
We were the first team to start, had a nice tailwind on the way out, went quite fast, and put time into our chasing team (Navy) on the way out. I waaaay overcooked the turnaround (this cost us a few seconds). On the way back, Matt and Alex really started to fatigue, but Jacob and I were a bit fresher (due to our convenient DNFs earlier) and we took up the slack. We crossed the line with a time of18:18, which was good enough to beat Virginia Tech by 20 seconds and Appalachian State by 41. It wasn't our cleanest run ever, but getting a win in the first TTT of the year is always reassuring.
From the first time up the Turn 6 climb, App State rode hard and attacked often, forcing Matt and I (and a few other riders) to cover their moves. With a strung-out field, a lot of responsibility fell towards those of us in good position near the front. But Matt and I were able to mark most every move, giving our teammates time to move forward.
Midway through the race, Jacob slid out hard in some gravel/sand on the outside of turn 2 and took Zeb King (App State), Matt, and Eoin with him. Matt and Eoin were able to come back in on a free lap, but Jacob's day was done. Riding through that turn lap after lap and catching quick glimpses of EMTs attending to him was awfully dispiriting.
Forrest Howard (App State) took a flyer with three laps to go and I moved forward to try to chase him down (Matt had been doing most of the team's work at the front and we needed to give him some break for the finale). Forrest's gap of ~10 seconds came down to ~3 with one lap to go, we brought him back into the group, and a field sprint resulted in placings of 4th (Matt), 9th (Eoin), 11th (Kaleb), and 12th (Alex). We missed the podium, but all in all, the results were good.
Duke finished the weekend in fourth place (as a complete team) and first place (as a Men's A team). But, on a very sad note, we lost Jacob for the forseeable future to a broken collarbone. This severely affects our depth in the Men's A field. And with national championships in just under six weeks, we may be missing one of our best team time trial riders. Jacob has surgery on Thursday and after that a more definitive prognosis on recovery will be known. For now, it's an estimated four to six weeks.
Next, the racing comes to Durham, NC as Duke hosts a race weekend! It's always nice to have a home event that requires minimal travel.